steelhead fly fishing
Passion – Alaska Fishing with Bears!

What does it take to be a successful steelhead fly fisherman? The right fly – sure.  A good presentation – You bet.  Reading water to find the fish – No question.

But, you will not be a successful steelhead fisherman unless you are patient, persistent, passionate and get out and practice. Don’t think you have these characteristics now? Don’t worry, fly fishing for steelhead will help you develop these.  Follow along to the bottom for a few tips that will also help you get there.

I will get you in the right mindset as you begin your journey to catch a steelhead on the fly. If you’ve already caught some steelhead, I will remind you of the mental aspect so you can hook more fish.

Typical Steelhead Fishing Trip

Are you ready to stand in a run for an hour or more? Systematically working your way downstream. Making a cast, swinging, resting, then stepping.  Cast-Swing-Rest-Step.  Cast-Swing-Rest-Step.  Over and over again. Although you know that next cast could be a steelhead torching down river, there is an equal chance that nothing happens.

This is a typical scenario when swinging flies for steelhead. Although I’ve had some big fish day #’s, I’ve had many more sessions with 2, 1 or no hookups. It’s just the way steelhead fishing is.

A long day finally pays off in the evening

The amazing thing is that it only takes one fish to keep you riding high until the next take. It’s really kind of like a drug. You have to get that next fix, and when you don’t – you get a little crazy.

Patience, Persistence, Passion and Practice- Do you have it in You?

There’s more to fishing than catching fish. This is very true for steelhead fishing as well. While swinging flies you don’t necessarily have to be looking at your fly. You can spend time looking at the swallows, deer or the canyon.
This is a good time to reflect on the meaning of life and your appreciation of being alive. Standing in the cool water on a warm morning out west with a full day of fishing ahead of you is about as good as it gets.

There’s nothing more that I like outdoors than taking in this quiet and connected moment with nature.


In an instant, your entire mindset changes as the steelhead rips out into your backing. You eventually land the wild fish, release it and feel the power of a sea run trout as the caudle peduncle flexes in your hand and the fish kicks away.  You’ve got your fix for the day.  Now, time to get more.

You move back up to the spot where the fish took your fly and continue working down the run. You now have a fish story under your belt. And maybe more importantly, you have a spot where a fish took your fly and another will likely be there tomorrow to do it again. spey rod

You have a little more confidence. You know how to catch a steelhead.  This fish will allow you to be the 4 P’s.

Do you have the patience, persistence, and passion to stand in a steelhead run for a long time before getting a tug? If you don’t think you do, there are some things you can do to prep.

Just getting out and practicing will be a big part of it.  Over time, the relaxing connection with nature, sound of the flowing water and quiet meditation of being on the river will help you get here.

The 4 P’s of Fly Fishing


Practicing patience starts in your daily life.  There are things you can do to develop more patience.

Breathe. Take a deep breath in and then let it slowly out. Understand that whatever you are struggling with right now is not the end of the world. If you can get through this moment, things will likely settle down.   Here are a few more tips to help you develop patience.


Keeping that positive outlook will go a long way. Understanding that it takes time to develop a new skill. That’s the great thing about this fly fishing. You will never stop learning.  Persistence comes with this understanding.  Here are a few more tips to help you develop some skills.



How do you find your passion? That is a good question. As you get into steelhead fishing, and hook your first fish you will quickly find out if you are passionate about it. The key is hooking that first fish which can take some time. Here’s a link to a few other tips to help you find your passion.

Surrounding yourself with passionate people is one of my favorite tips. You have a good start by connecting with our community here.  These are some of the stories from people in the community.  Leave a comment and reach out to some of these fishers who have been there, and caught that first fish.


Of course, practice. The bottom line is that you have to get out there and do it. You can take a lot in from reading a blog, watching a video, but until you get out and practice, you won’t put it together.

And for those that remember the infamous Allen Iverson you tube clip about PRACTICE – Here it is.  Still funny after all of these years.  It is all about practice.  Putting in the time every single day to accomplish your goal is what it’s all about.  That’s right Allen, WE’RE TALKIN BOUT PRACTICE, NOT A GAME, NOT A GAME – BUT PRACTICE!

Let’s do it right now. Drop what you are doing and plan a day to get out on the water. Can you cut out of work early one day. Can you get up a little early one day. What ever it takes, make it part of your weekly routine. Developing the skill is about practice.


Being an effective steelhead fly fisherman means being in the right mindset. Understanding what it takes to spend long days swinging flies will help you catch more fish. You will appreciate the patience, persistence and passion needed.

If you dont have these characteristics now, follow some of the links to help you get started. The bottom line is – You’ve got to get out on the water to continue breaking down the wall.  You’ve got to get out and Practice.  You’ve got to put your time in.

And if you’re interested in the right spey rod for steelhead, Click here to see the Echo Spey Rod that has helped me drastically improve my spey cast and find more steelhead at a super reasonable cost (You also get a free spey line if you pickup the Echo Spey).  By the way, the link above is an affiliate link, which means I earn a commission if you do end up purchasing through that link.  It’s at no extra cost to you, and please if you have any questions related to this product, please let me know and I’d be happy to answer them for you.



  1. The most valuable lesson –
    “There’s more to fishing than catching fish”
    Understanding that connection to the natural world is key to inner well being and happiness!
    Must hit the river soon!

    • Yeah, that’s some powerful stuff. Thanks for connecting and providing another reality check for all of us. I’ll be out with my 3 year old this Saturday and will hopefully allow this message to sink in over time.

  2. Dave, your article is well written and thought provoking and I liked your reference of Iverson’s thoughts about practice. It helped to make your work entertaining. D.E. S.

    • Thanks. Yeah, I put the Iverson piece in last minute, because it was funny and just reminded me how important every practice is. You have to show up every day and put your time in. That’s what I’m doing with this website. I’ve been making some amazing connections and having fun.

    • No problem Chris. I’m having fun posting and connecting with people from around the world. The site is pretty new and I have a long way to go, but this has been a great start so far. I’m writing most of the content with a beginner steelhead fly fisher in mind, but let me know any time you have positive or negative feedback. I would love to make it better as I go.

    • Thanks buddy! The mindset piece is one of the biggest things to understand early on so you don’t get discouraged. Now that you understand this, you can head out and crush it. Good luck on your trips this summer. I’ll look forward to swinging a few on the river later on.

  3. It’s encouraging to read stuff like this. I have been fly fishing for steelhead about 10 times this year and still have not caught a fish. Yet I know others who fish the same river and are having great success, mostly indicator fishing with beads. I do mostly swing fly fishing but for some reason have not discovered the right combination. Pretty discouraging. Yet the fun is in the fishing. The catching is just a bonus. Hopefully I can remember that the next time I get skunked!

    • Hang in there Albert, it will come for you. You just have to get that first fish under your belt. Then you will have one spot and technique that worked. Keep building off that.